The San Antonio Spurs stunned the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Playoffs on their way to their fifth title as a franchise. The team's stalwart players in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker played beautiful basketball while their roster filled with role players performed exceptionally.
With a new Larry O'Brien trophy to confirm the franchise's consistent excellence, what's next for the Spurs?
The "Big Fundamental" question
Tim Duncan signed a three-year contract worth $30 million with the Spurs in 2012 and has a player option for the 2014-15 season. Duncan, 38, could go out on top after capturing his fifth NBA title. He's carefully dodged retirement talk through the NBA Finals, but the Spurs should have an answer fairly quickly.
Duncan has a deadline of June 24 to exercise his $10 million player option to continue his career with the Spurs. Age hasn't looked like a factor for Duncan, who averaged 15.4 points and 10 rebounds through five NBA Finals games. An opt-in would be a quick and easy answer for San Antonio.
Gregg Popovich, similar to Duncan, could go out on top. The Spurs' performance through the NBA Finals would be the perfect bookend to his coaching career, but his contract runs through the 2014-15 season. With the Spurs landing in back-to-back finals and capturing a title, there's no reason to believe this group will see a significant fall-off next season.
A firm "Yes, I'll be back" would be a big win for the Spurs.
Rebuilding the role players
The Spurs adjusted their roster last summer by allowing Gary Neal to sign with the Milwaukee Bucks, then re-signing Tiago Splitter to a multi-year extension. This summer will feature more roster decisions from general manager R.C. Buford, as Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Matt Bonner will all become unrestricted free agents.
San Antonio is in great position from a salary cap perspective and should be able to comfortably negotiate with each player. Diaw's insertion into the starting lineup made for a matchup problem for Miami, Mills was a hot shooter off the bench, and Bonner is a veteran who can step in and provide floor spacing off the bench.
Will the Spurs retain their role players and push for a third run to the finals, or will they fine-tune their roster with a few new free agent faces? San Antonio will be under the salary cap threshold even if Duncan accepts his $10 million player option, giving them room to add to their roster via free agency.
Keep on keepin' on
The Spurs have clearly found a sustainable groove over the last two seasons, and the growth of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard should be attributed to their success. Green, an unheralded second-round pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, has emerged as one of the NBA's most dangerous three-point threats. Leonard, a mid-first-round pick, has become one of the NBA's best two-way forwards.
They each have another season under their belt with an NBA championship to add to their resumes, though Leonard is eligible to sign a contract extension that'll kick in after the 2014-15 season. Their emergence should ease the load on Ginobili, Parker and Duncan through a grueling 82-game season.
San Antonio has played deep into the playoffs for back-to-back years and all signs point to the team being in contention again. It's looking like business as usual for the Spurs, with the biggest question mark hanging over Duncan's head.